I am forced to imagine a time at the end of my old life where there is absolutely nothing to look forward to, no purpose to speak of, and having to wait for that 'peace' train that never seems to come and kill the loneliness. A day so long that nothing seems to shorten its' relentless attack on the mind and heart. Allow me to shed some light on the life of a senior, most seniors, now in homes for the elderly.
Even at 60 years old, there is a palpable sadness having to come to terms with the end of a teaching career that provided quite a substantial sense of purpose, second only to raising a son who has flown the nest leaving nothing but heart melting memories I will never have again.
Yes, there are still the grandkids I'm selfishly banking on to provide reprieve from this empty feeling that challenges my life, and yes, thank goodness I can still drive, dress myself, pay my bills, and think somewhat sensibly with borderline faculties in check!
It is the elderly women that I have the honour of working with that further test this sensitive heart. With each senior I help move into retirement communities, the writing is so evidently written on the wall as to where my journey will eventually fall someday, of course God willing I be given the privilege of growing older, and then God willing in some strange way, I don't...
Anna, 85, is my teacher these days, sharing quietly how her independence had been stolen the day the family home of 45 years sold without her knowledge and her adult children tucked her away in a senior residence, out of sight out of mine she explains. Trying to reassure her the intent was to protect her from falls leads us nowhere as she quickly dismisses such kindness as guilt shrouded in wolves clothes. Seeing this as blatant abandonment, feeling unloved and unworthy, there is little I can say to reassure her otherwise.
My mind cannot help but wander to the place she resides emotionally. All her sensibilities are alive and well, yet to Anna, her remaining days are desolate, lonely and unforgiving. Regardless of the well intentions of her kids, they get to leave and continue their busy lives, and every so often allow Anna into their schedule with the proverbial hour long visit or the intermittent phone call. The time that Anna would need from her children is not plausible nor realistic. She knows this.
Standing on the other side of life however, I have a tendency to agree with this 'once upon a time vibrant woman and mother', who now feels she is a burden to her kids and to darn proud to tell them so, for dignity is all that remains.
Anna shared a 65 year marriage with her beloved Ted who died a year ago. Together they raised five kids, had a fabulous social circle of friends, and lived what Anna calls 'a charmed and blissful existence! Fast forward to her world today. Alone now without her better half, surrounded not by her babies but by a few familiar pieces of furniture taken from the home she raised her family in, she now literally just exists. She'd rather be dead, and curses the mornings she still wakes upon.
The retirement homes today bathe in glitter, are phenomenal spaces of decor, provide chef induced meals, and literally leave nothing for the elderly to worry about.
May I say we missed the boat here with propaganda that has tricked our very senses into thinking this form of environment would ease a lonely heart. Make no mistake, they undoubtedly are 'pretty' places to spend one's last days in, but in no way do they provide any fragment of solace to an aged heart who knows too well the score, a heart that breaks anyway and life as they know it is over, even though that tired heart continues to beat...
Today was a difficult day.